Following unprecedented flooding that has left one-third of Pakistan underwater and affected approximately 33 million people, today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand led 11 of her Senate colleagues in writing a letter calling on President Biden to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Pakistani nationals currently residing in the United States. Implementing TPS would allow Pakistani nationals to remain in the U.S. until Pakistan recovers from this environmental disaster. The ongoing crisis has left many regions of the country uninhabitable and unsafe, caused at least an estimated $10 billion in damage, and contaminated the water supply, spreading an array of waterborne illnesses, including diarrhea, malaria, acute respiratory infections, skin and eye infections, and typhoid.
In addition to Senator Gillibrand, the letter to President Biden was also signed by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mark Warner (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Tina Smith (D-MN).
“Granting TPS to Pakistani nationals in need is a small but consequential step that the United States can take to immediately reduce the human suffering caused by this natural disaster and would reaffirm our stance as a global leader committed to humanitarian relief efforts and protections,” wrote the senators. “Should Pakistan officially request TPS designation given the current conditions the country is facing, we urge the Biden administration to prioritize such a request while continuing to monitor ongoing developments and deliberate on the best way to aid the Pakistani community.”
This action is supported by the National Immigration Forum, Asian American Federation (AAF), the Climate Justice Collaborative at the National Partnership for New Americans, Communities United for Status and Protection (CUSP), and South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT).
The full text of the letter is available here or below:
Dear President Biden:
We write to respectfully urge your Administration to consider designating the Islamic Republic of Pakistan for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Unprecedented flooding in Pakistan is currently impacting approximately 33 million people and has killed more than 1,500 people, including 536 children. Given the severity of this crisis, the United States must ensure that Pakistani nationals present in the United States are not forced to return to conditions that could imperil their lives.
Current conditions in Pakistan represent an ongoing environmental disaster – one of the statutory bases for TPS designation. Extreme flooding has left most regions of the country uninhabitable and unsafe. According to data from the European Space Agency, approximately one-third of Pakistan is underwater. The Indus River is exceeding its capacity, which has led officials to evacuate entire villages in hopes of mitigating further disaster. Half of Pakistan’s municipal districts have declared a “state of calamity” and the country’s National Disaster Management Authority estimates that one in seven Pakistanis has been affected. According to Pakistan’s finance minister, the damage is likely to exceed $10 billion, which is equivalent to 4 percent of the country’s annual gross domestic product.
Even as Pakistanis are reeling from the physical destruction caused by the flooding, they are also facing the spread of waterborne illness that this environmental crisis has exacerbated. Tens of thousands have been stricken by diarrhea, malaria, acute respiratory infections (ARI), skin and eye infections, typhoid, and other health issues resulting from contamination of the water supply. While we applaud your Administration’s decision to provide a much needed $30 million in humanitarian assistance and dispatch a USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team, further action is needed to mitigate the harmful effects of this crisis.
Forcing Pakistanis to return to a country that is experiencing what U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has called a relentless impact of “epochal” levels of rain and flooding would be a grievous obstruction to relief efforts. It would also risk fueling further displacement, destabilizing the region, and undermining key U.S. national security interests.8 The use and implementation of TPS as a humanitarian tool would provide necessary relief to individuals that are unable to return to their country due to the extraordinary environmental and public health conditions.
Additionally, designating Pakistan for TPS would also contribute to your Administration’s multi-pronged disaster response. It would decrease the strain on Pakistani infrastructure and provide a safe haven for those who cannot return to their homes or whose homes have been destroyed. Should Pakistan officially request TPS designation given the current conditions that the country is facing, we urge you to prioritize such a request and take it into serious consideration while you continue to monitor ongoing developments and deliberate on the best way to aid the Pakistani community. TPS is a small but consequential step that the United States can take to immediately reduce the human suffering caused by this natural disaster and would reaffirm our stance as a global leader committed to humanitarian relief efforts and protections.
Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to your timely reply.